January 20, 2020

Selectmen Chairman Welcomed DESE’s Intervention

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Rehoboth Selectmen Chairman Gerry Schwall hoped the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) would come in to provide oversight of the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School District’s budget.

At the May 20, 2019 Selectmen meeting, Schwall noted the consequences of not approving the 2020 school budget.  “If we don’t give in to the demands, the big bad state’s going to come in and they’re going to take over the school district, they’re going to give us a budget and we’re going to have to live with it,” Schwall said.

Schwall said he had met with representatives of DESE and gained valuable knowledge about the budget. “By the time we got done, I actually asked them if they would come into Rehoboth to look at the budget because I think that would be a great thing for both towns,” Schwall said, adding: “I welcome them. I am not afraid and nor should anybody else be afraid that the folks from DESE will come in.”

On Monday, Schwall called last year’s budget process a “debacle” and said it was the School Committee’s responsibility to “make a recommendation to voters.”

Last August, Selectmen had reached a compromise with the School Committee. In exchange for giving the School Department an additional $330,000 for the 2020 budget, selectmen had proposed $214,000 in cuts to town departments. Voters rejected the revised FY20 budget at the October 29 town meeting and the district-wide meeting scheduled for November 2 was cancelled.

In a November 13 letter to DESE, Schwall cited “the ever-increasing and unsustainable financial demands” from the school district. DESE later established the Dighton-Rehoboth school budget at $45 million.

DESE assumed fiscal oversight of the school district on December 1.

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